“… Bread that this house may never know hunger, salt that life may always have flavor…”
– “It’s a Wonderful Life”
SALT! It’s a must-have in the kitchen for cooking, baking and finishing our dishes. But many cooks wonder… which kind of salt should I use?!
Here are a few of the most commonly used cooking salts, their traits and how best to use them:
Iodized table salts – This is the salt that you’ll typically find in the salt shaker on the dinner table. This industrial salt is refined to about 99 percent sodium chloride. Iodized salts were first sold in 1924, with a minute amount of iodine added to help combat iodine deficiency (which presumably can cause medical challenges such as thyroid issues). Table salt doesn’t clump, and it’s a good choice for baking because it incorporates well into dry ingredients.
Kosher Salt – Kosher salt is the all-purpose favorite salt of most chefs and home cooks because of its coarse, uniform, ‘pinch-able’ grains. The name doesn’t mean it is “kosher-certified”, but actually refers to how the crystals draw out moisture in the meat koshering process. Some kosher salts, such as Morton Kosher Salt have uniform flakes and a high sodium content which adds that saltiness used to enhance the flavor of foods. Other kosher salt, such as Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, have “flakier” and less cube-like grains of various shapes and sizes, with a lower sodium content and a less ‘salty’ taste. This type of kosher salt dissolves nicely and is good for use in both cooking and baking.
Sea Salt – Harvested from evaporated sea water from various places around the world, sea salts are usually less refined and coarser than table salts and contain minerals from where harvested (such as zinc, potassium and iron). These minerals give sea salts more complex flavor profiles. There are many varieties of sea salts, such as Morton Kosher Sea Salt, with its large, cube-like grains and salty, briny taste to your cooking. Hain Sea Salt has a very fine grain, but it’s still a bit flakier than standard table salt. Korean coarse sea salt is noticeably larger and coarser than the usual sea salts, such as the Morton’s brand. It’s less processed and has a very salty, briny flavor that’s key for brining and especially for making Korean foods like Kimchi.
Fleur de Sel – This ‘upscale’, slightly moist salt resists dissolving and is best for sprinkling over your finished dish just before serving. Use it on salads, sandwiches and desserts for a clean, crisp, salty flavor.
The purest form of salt in the world, Himalayan salt is harvested by hand from salt mines in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan.
Red Hawaiian salt gets its name and color from the reddish, iron-rich volcanic clay found in these islands. It adds an attractive finish, plus a robust flavor to seafood and meat, and it’s used in traditional island dishes like Poke and Pipikaula, a Hawaiian jerky.
Often known as ‘ice cream salt’, Rock Salt is an extremely coarse and ‘chunky’ salt used in ice cream makers. It is sprinkled over ice for more rapid cooling.
There are many other kinds of salt, but in a nutshell, follow the recipe and use the salt indicated there. If you want to ‘freestyle’ a bit and try other salts, then certainly do! Try finishing your dish with a sea salt. It’s pretty, and since the salt is isolated on the top of a dish at the very end, you are more able to really ‘taste’ the salt to determine preference, or try a Korean coarse salt or Fleur de Sel for baking to really make the flakes stand out and be recognized.
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Watch the video below, as Chef Jill shows you the different salts discussed above, and see how very different the grains of salt can be!
What special salts have you tried and loved (or hated)? Leave a comment below and let us know!